Tag Archives: headache

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Magnesium: what is it & what does it do for you?

I regularly recommend my clients use magnesium, either in the form of a supplement, topical cream or oil, or as salts dissolved in a warm bath.

But what is magnesium, and what does it do for our body?

The Science

Magnesium

Magnesium is a chemical element. It is the fourth most common element on Earth, and the third most common dissolved in seawater. Magnesium is the eleventh most abundant element by mass in the human body and is essential to all cells and some 300 enzymes.

The important interaction between phosphate and magnesium ions makes magnesium essential to the basic nucleic acid chemistry of all cells of all known living organisms. More than 300 enzymes require magnesium ions for their catalytic action, including all enzymes using or synthesizing adenosine triphosphate (ATP).

Now I don’t want this to turn into a boring chemistry lecture, but ATP is a complex organic chemical that participates in many processes, including providing energy for nearly all of the body’s metabolic processes and muscular contraction. 20% of the body’s magnesium is for skeletal muscle function.[1]

Magnesium is also an imperative part in;

  • Nerve conduction
  • The production of energy from carbohydrates and fats
  • The production and maintenance of healthy bones, including the synthesis of bone matrix, bone mineral metabolism and the maintenance of bone density
  • Maintenance of healthy heart function and normal heart rhythm.[2]

Where can we source magnesium?

The Source

Nuts, Greens, Cocoa & Spices

Spices, nuts & seeds, cereals, cocoa (W00T!) and leafy green vegetables are rich sources of magnesium. [3]

Thankfully, if we are not getting enough magnesium in our diet, or are experiencing symptoms of magnesium deficiency alternative methods for magnesium intake is readily available.

Bath salts

Magnesium chloride

Magnesium chloride is extracted from seawater and is more readily absorbed through the skin than other forms of magnesium, so it’s perfect for bath salts. It is not for ingestion.

Magnesium sulfate

Magnesium sulfate is more commonly known as Epsom salts. A great source of magnesium and available in most supermarkets and chemists, Epsom salts have been popular since it was discovered in the British town it was named after, in the 17th century. [4]

Topical creams and oils

As both magnesium chloride and sulfate are absorbed through the skin, they make great topical applications and are available in creams and oils that can be rubbed directly on the sore or cramping muscle. Great for carrying in your sports or travel bag and cant get to a bath.

Topical spray, supplements, bath salts

Supplements

Magnesium itself cannot be absorbed and needs to be bonded to another molecule to be absorbed. The most common bonding agents are oxide, citrate, glycinate, sulphate or amino acid chelate.

This is the least absorbed form, but also has one of the highest percentages of elemental magnesium per dose so it still may be the  highest absorbed dose per mg. This is a great general purpose magnesium if really Mg is all you need.  It makes a simple muscle relaxer, nerve tonic and laxative if you take a high dose.

This is one of the most common forms of Mg on the commercial market. This is Mg bonded to citric acid, which increases the rate of absorption. Citrate is a larger molecule than the simple oxygen of oxide, so there is less magnesium by weight than in the oxide form. This is the most commonly used form in laxative preparations.

In this form, Mg is bonded to the amino acid glycine. Glycine itself is a relaxing neurotransmitter and so enhances magnesium’s natural relaxation properties. This could be the best form if you’re using it for mental calm and relaxation.

Magnesium amino acid chelate is usually bonded to a variety of amino acids. In this form there is less magnesium by weight but the individual amino acids could all be beneficial for different things. Every formula is different so if you need both Mg and a particular amino acid, then this could be the way to go. [5]

Recommended daily intake of magnesium is;

  • 400 mg/day for men aged 19-30 years, increasing to 420 mg/day for those aged 31 and above,
  • For women aged 19-30 years, the RDI is 310 mg/day, increasing to 320 mg over the age of 30,
  • Depending on their age, the RDI for adult women who are pregnant is 350-360 mg/day.
  • The RDI for breastfeeding for those who are breastfeeding is 310-320 mg of magnesium each day. [6]

What happens if I don’t have enough magnesium?

The Symptoms

If you’re not getting enough magnesium in your diet then you may be experiencing symptoms such as;

  • Muscular cramp

    Muscular problems such as cramps, twitches, slow to recover from injury, aches and pains,

  • Fibromyalgia is sometimes linked to magnesium deficiency,
  • Migraines and headaches, including tension headaches,
  • Period pain and symptoms of premenstrual syndrome, including mood swings , fluid retention, premenstrual migraines,
  • Stress, irritability, insomnia and anxiety,
  • Fatigue, which may be a symptom of magnesium deficiency.

It may also play a role in helping to maintain cardiovascular health and healthy bone density.

What could be causing my magnesium deficiency?

The Seed

  • Stress (especially when prolonged or severe),
  • Inadequate sleep,
  • Profuse perspiration,
  • Excessive consumption of caffeine, salt, sugar and alcohol,
  • Heavy menstrual periods,
  • Eating large quantities of processed and refined foods,
  • The use of some multiple pharmaceutical medications,
  • Gastrointestinal disorders such as short-term diarrhoea or vomiting and conditions that affect your absorption of nutrients,
  • Getting older. [7]

Can I have too much magnesium?

Doses less than 350 mg daily are safe for most adults. When taken in very large amounts, magnesium is possibly unsafe.

Symptoms of magnesium overdose include;

  • diarrhea
  • nausea and vomiting
  • lethargy
  • muscle weakness
  • irregular heartbeat
  • low blood pressure
  • urine retention
  • respiratory distress
  • cardiac arrest. [8]

 

The best way to ensure you’re getting enough magnesium is to maintain a healthy diet of whole foods and steer clear of processed and refined foods. If you are getting regular cramps or muscular pain it might be a good idea to get some advice from your physical therapist.

Maintaining muscular health can be as easy as regular gentle exercise and stretching, fresh air and water each day, a 20 minute magnesium bath a week, some leafy greens and nuts in your diet and regular massage.

If you think you have a serious magnesium deficiency you should consult your doctor.

 

Have you ever used magnesium? How did it work for you?

Need a massage but in a lunch rush?

Half hour massages now available

Do you work or live locally and are looking for a quick massage in your lunch hour?
We now offer 30 minute massage, tailored to suit your needs.

‘Gone to Lunch’

Sore lower back? Tight neck and shoulders? Headache? Tight hamstrings from this mornings workout? Whatever your need, try a quick half hour massage to suit.
Book online now, call or message 0450721661

Muscle in Review: Sternocleidomstoid

Sternocleidomastoid muscle highlighted in red

Sternocleidomastoid, regularly abbreviated to SCM is located superficially, either side of the neck.

It originates at the sternum (sterno) and inserts at the clavicle (cleido) and mastoid process of the skull. It’s main function is head rotation and flexion of the neck.

How does SCM become injured?
SCM can be easily injured with sudden movement or jerks of the head, mostly commonly with whiplash.

 

Muscles in Upper Cross Syndrome

 

It is also often innervated in ‘upper cross syndrome’ where the upper neck and lower shoulder muscles are weak, while the upper shoulder and chest muscles are tight. This is largely due to poor posture as we hunch to use the mouse/keyboards or crane our necks over to look at our laptops or mobiles, or while driving.

What are the symptoms of an injured SCM?
A strained SCM can produce swelling and redness along the muscle, at the site of the injury. In severe cases, you also may see bruising along the path of the injury. If the strain results in a muscle spasm, you may notice a twitching or fluttering beneath the surface of the skin along the side of your neck. Stiffness, muscle fatigue and difficulty holding your head upright may occur, along with dull pain along the path of the injury, accompanied by sharp pain when turning or tilting your head.

Trigger points in SCM can cause headache pain in the back of the head, behind the ear, in the forehead but it can also cause a list of other symptoms that some may not normally attribute to muscles.

SCM trigger points

Primary Symptoms include;
Back of Head Pain
Cheek Pain (like Sinusitis)
Dizziness When Turning Head or Changing Field of View
Double/Blurry/Jumpy Print Vision
Dry Cough
Ear Pain
Earaches/Tinnitus (Ringing)/Itch
Feeling Continued Movement in Car After Stopping
Feeling Tilted When Cornering in Car
Front of Chest Pain
Frontal Headache
Headaches or Migraines
Post Nasal Drip
Runny Nose
Sore throat
Tearing/Reddening of Eye, Drooping of Eyelid
Temple and Eyebrow Pain
Temporal Headache (Temples)
Temporomandibular Joint (jaw) Pain
Throat & Front of Neck Pain
Travelling Nocturnal Sinus Stuffiness
Vertex Pain
Visual Perception Problems

How is SCM treated?
Applying ice for 10 minutes several times daily may relieve swelling and redness. Wearing a neck brace supports the weight of your head, temporarily relieving the stress on SCM although may only recommended temporarily and only in severe cases. Over-the-counter nonsteroidal antiinflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen (Advil, Neurofen) and naproxen (Naprosyn, Aleve) and analgesic rubs can relieve some of the pain associated with the strain.

SCM is very responsive to massage and other soft tissue techniques such as gentle cupping, dry needling, and stretching.

  • Rotate your head to look over your shoulder, as far as is comfortable, not to strain.
  • Then gently tilt the head to the same side, as if trying to reach the ear to the shoulder.
  • Hold for 20-30 seconds, rest and stretch the other side.

 

 

If you are a yogi, some basic yoga poses that can help lateral and anterior neck tension include;

Bitilasana (Cow Pose) and Marjariasana (Cat Pose)

Cow-Cat pose is a gentle up-and-down flowing posture that brings flexibility to the entire spine. It stretches and lengthens the back torso and neck. It’s a wonderful and easy movement to open and create space through the entire neck.
To begin with cow pose, kneel on your hands and knees in a neutral, tabletop position. Be sure to align the hands below the shoulders and knees directly beneath the hips. Looking straight ahead, inhale, and slowly extend through your spine as you look up and forward, softly arching through the back and neck. Take care to expand through your chest and lower your shoulders down and back.

Move into cat pose by reversing the movement as you exhale and bring your chin towards your chest while gently hunching and rounding your back. Repeat this sequence for 7 to 10 cycles, softly flowing with your breath.

Ardha Matsyendrasana (Seated Twist Pose)

The seated twist is a wonderful pose to bring flexibility to the entire spinal column. It provides an inner massage to the abdominal organs and encourages side-to-side flexibility of the neck.

Begin seated on the floor with both legs extended in front of you and hands at your sides. Bend the right knee and draw the right foot to the outside of the outstretched left leg. Sit up tall, inhale, and extend your left arm out to your left. As you exhale, draw your left arm across your body so the elbow joint gently wraps around your right knee. Take your right hand and place it palm down on the floor near your tailbone, fingers pointing away from you. Draw your chin toward your right shoulder, making sure to keep your spine tall, and the crown of your head reaching toward the sky. Bend the right elbow slightly to allow the right shoulder to sink down.

Breathe deeply in this pose for 5 to 7 breaths, making sure to twist (not crank) your spine comfortably. Repeat on the left side to maintain the balance in your body and spinal column.

Ear to Shoulder Pose

This is an easy pose that can be done just about anywhere. The pose facilitates the lateral movement of the neck as well as stretches down into the shoulder and trapezius muscles. This pose can be performed standing or sitting, provided the spine is straight.

Begin by looking straight ahead with your arms down at your sides. Take a deep breath and as you exhale, bring your right ear down toward your right shoulder. Try to avoid leaning your head forward or back so that your head remains in the same plane as your shoulders. Inhale as you draw your head back to center and exhale as you repeat the movement to the left.

To deepen the stretch, place your right hand on the left side of your head as it drops over towards the right shoulder. Don’t pull your head over; just allow the weight of your hand to softly guide it down. Perform this cycle 7 to 10 times per side before returning to centre. (1)

Cupping: what is it and should I get it?

Ancient Chinese cupping

You may have seen the dark, bruise coloured circles on the backs of the Olympic athletes at the current games in Rio. Many of you may be wondering what they are or have heard from the commentators and media articles about this ‘new’ treatment the athletes are receiving called cupping.

What is cupping and where does it come from?
Cupping is not something new. Early records of cupping have existed since ancient Egypt around 1500 BC. Hippocrates, the father of modern medicine, prescribed cupping. The Chinese have been using cupping dating back to 281 AD. The British were using cupping by the 1800’s with observation of Hippocrates writings. However, with the rise of scientific medicine, the practice of cupping has declined in the West in the last century, until a recent resurgence from traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) practitioners practicing here in the West and other physical therapists using it to aid in soft tissue therapies.

The method of cupping uses a cup with vacuum created by a flame, pump or suction applied to the skin. Animal horns, bamboo, hollowed out wood or clay, even shells have been used for cupping practices throughout history. The cups used nowadays are most commonly made from glass, plastic or silicone.

How does it work?
TCM practitioners use cupping to move energy and correct internal imbalances, as well as to clear the effects of external injury and climatic influences such as the cold.1 In myotherapy, remedial massage and other physical therapies the cups are used to stretch the underlying tissues such as muscle and fascia.

What is fascia?
Myers (2014) says that while everyone learns something about bones and muscles, the origin and disposition of the fascinating fascial net that unites them is less widely understood, although that is gradually changing.2

Pith acts like fascia

Connective tissue is an apt description of fascia as its web-like structure binds every cell in the body to it’s neighbour.3 Imagine the pith in a mandarin, how it sticks to each segment and holds the segments to each other, and the skin to the flesh of the fruit. In very basic terms, this is what fascia is like.

It is primarily made up of collagen and keeps our muscles and organs where they should be. It also helps transport proteins and nutrients around the body as well as supporting the circulatory and nervous systems.

‘In short muscle is elastic, fascia is plastic’

Fascia is different to muscle in that, when stretched it won’t easily ‘recoil’ to it’s original form. Stretched quickly, it will tear. Stretched slowly it will warp and deform. In short muscle is elastic, fascia is plastic.4 Over time fascia will however, lay new fibres to rebind. This is what western, or modern, cupping aims to facilitate This is called myofascial release. Myofascial release can be achieved manually, with a slow, deliberate massage technique, heat and compression but the suction of the cups lifts and separates the muscle fibres and surrounding connective tissue in a way that cannot be achieved manually. It also increases the blood flow around the restricted muscle to help restore its function.

Australian TCM practitioner and modern cupping pioneer, Bruce Bentley says “Judging from what we can see and feel, we can suppose that the various layers of the skin and the fat beneath are drawn inside the cup, together with a positive tension exerted on the underlying fascia”. He goes on to say “we can presume therefore that the suction effect and the drawing out and elevation of these tissues facilitates an increase of local blood supply to the immediate area, which in turn implies an enhanced metabolic uptake of oxygen and feed of nutrients to those parts. It therefore relaxes and reduces pain [caused by] congestion and contracture”.5

Cupping works fast, with minimal pain to re-knit the connective tissues with a ‘trickle down’ effect to underlying muscle tissues, circulatory and nervous systems and perhaps even organs.

But what are those ‘bruises’?
Bruce Bentley maintains that a cupping mark is not bruising but the physical outcome of pathogens, toxins, blockages and impurities (waste products) that are an undesirable presence in the body.6

MediNet defines a bruise as an injury of the soft tissues that results in breakage of the local capillaries and leakage of red blood cells. In the skin it can be seen as a reddish-purple discoloration that does not blanch when pressed. When a bruise fades, it becomes green and brown, as the body metabolizes the blood cells in the skin. It is best treated with local application of a cold pack immediately after injury.7

However, when tested, the composition of the dark pigmentation left from cupping was found to be ‘old blood’, stagnant blood in the tight muscle fibres.8 Blood that is not moving, the more it thickens, congeals and darkens. TCM also recognises the different colours, shape, temperature and texture of the marks as a diagnostic tool to signify varying pathogens or deficiencies within the body.

Rest assured the marks left by cups are painless, they do not feel like bruising and fade within a few days to a few weeks, depending on how dark they are. I also have observed that clients who have regular cupping tend to mark less and less.

What is the difference between the different types of cups?

L to R: plastic pump cups, silicone cups, glass cups with aspirator suction pump, plastic suction pump with magnets, glass

There are many and varied types of cups. Glass, plastic suction pump, rubber, silicone, glass with a vacuum pump, plastic with a vacuum pump and magnets. The most common used by physical therapists are the glass, plastic suction pump or the silicone cups.

The glass cups are considered the traditional cups, largely used by TCM practitioners. They are used by some physical therapists too. The vacuum is created by placing a fueled flame, usually a cotton wool ball doused in methylated spirits, into the cup for a second or two. The flame is removed and the cup is quickly placed on the oiled skin. The heated air in the cup then cools to create the suction, the oil on the skin acts as the seal to the vacuum.

Flame to create vacuum in cup

It does not feel hot on the skin. Often clients expect it to feel warm and are surprised that the glass is cool. The wide lips on the glass cups feel smooth on the skin. Depending on how much suction is created, the cup can be left where it’s placed, or moved around to massage with. The suction with the glass cups is often strong and tends to leave strong marks, like the ones you might have seen on Michael Phelps at the Olympics.

There is no exact way of measuring the suction on these cups and it takes some experience before a practitioner can judge the amount of suction the flame will create.

Plastic pump cups are often used by myotherapists and some massage therapists. They are fast and easy to use as there is no need for a flame and the amount of suction is easily controlled via the pump. They can be used static or moved to massage with also. They tend not to mark as much as the glass cups but can leave a slight pinkish circle where the cup is placed or a strip where the cup is moved.

Silicone cups are becoming more and more popular among massage therapists and other physical therapists due to their ease of use, durability and gentleness on the client. Suction is created by squeezing the cup and placed on the skin. Suction can be created without oil but seals better with a little bit of lubricant and the cups can be massaged with. This technique is especially good for myofascial release. These cups are not as strong as the glass or plastic pump cups, and therefore leave very little marking on the skin.

What are the contraindications of cupping?
The cupping contraindications are similar to that of massage. Cupping cannot be performed on skin that is broken, has acne, rash or other contagious skin disease. Cupping on pregnant women should be considered with caution, not to the soft tissue areas of the abdomen or lower back. Although I have seen good results on the sore hips of pregnant clients. Cupping shouldn’t be performed on existing bruising as it can be uncomfortable, although I have experimented on myself with the silicone cups to see if it move the bruising out quicker, which it did quite successfully I might say.

Are there other types of cupping?
Facial cupping for skin rejuvenation, headache, sinus and TMJ disorder relief; cupping to reduce stretch marks, scarring and cellulite all exist.

Wet cupping or Hijama, is an Arabic tradition. It is where an incision is made on the skin and the cup is placed over the incision to draw the blood out for therapeutic purposes. This practice is not used by physical therapists and has a risk of infection.

If you are considering myotherapy or massage for a chronic injury or muscular tension, consider trying some cupping with your physical therapy. It is a fast and effective way to mend soft tissue and alleviate muscular pain.

 


  1. Bently, B., Cupping, viewed 11th of August, 2016 <http://www.healthtraditions.com.au/course-details/cupping.htm>
  2. Myers, T 2014, Anatomy Trains – Myofascial Meridians for Manual & Movement Therapists, Elsevier Health Sciences, London
  3. Myers, T 2014, Anatomy Trains – Myofascial Meridians for Manual & Movement Therapists, Elsevier Health Sciences, London
  4. Myers, T 2014, Anatomy Trains – Myofascial Meridians for Manual & Movement Therapists, Elsevier Health Sciences, London
  5. Bentley, B., ‘Modern Cupping’, The Lantern Vol 10-3, pp.15
  6. Bentley, B., ‘A Cupping Mark is Not a Bruise’, The Lantern Vol 12-2, pp.16
  7.  Definition of a Bruise, viewed 11th of August, 2016 <http://www.medicinenet.com/script/main/art.asp?articlekey=2541>
  8. Bentley, B., ‘A Cupping Mark is Not a Bruise’, The Lantern Vol 12-2, pp.16

Condition in Review: Whiplash

Whiplash is a non-medical term describing a range of injuries to the neck caused by sudden distortion and extension. Injury may be to the cervical vertebrae or their associated ligaments and muscles.

Whiplash is often associated with vehicle accidents especially when hit from the rear. However, whiplash can also be caused by falls, sports accidents or being hit, kicked or shaken. It is the result of a violent back and forth movement of the head and neck, most commonly occurs in a rear end vehicle collision, damaging the cervical vertebrae and/or associated tissues. Whiplash is usually confined to the spine from the neck to the mid-back.

Symptoms can appear directly after injury but often are not felt until the days following. Pain and aching in the neck and back, referred pain to the shoulders, pins and needles in the arms, dizziness, headaches and occasionally nausea.

Victims of suspected whiplash should be referred to a GP for a medical imaging and examination to rule out any possible bone fractures and any other serious injury.

Whiplash should be treated as a sprain/strain injury therefore no heat should be applied to the area for the first 12 to 72 hours. During this timepiece can be applied to slow the spread of injury and inflammation. A cervical collar may be needed during the first 3 days while sleeping or for no more than 3 hours at a time during the day.

Massage can be applied after the first 72 hours and when more serious injury or fractures have been

Sternocleidomastoid trigger points & pain referral

ruled out. Massage will help increase blood and oxygen flow to the injured site, speeding up the healing process. Massage also reduces tension, eliminates trigger points and increases range of motion. Cupping therapy also helps release muscle and fascia tension and draws oxygen rich blood to the area.

How Myofascial Dry Needling and Cupping Works

In the past couple months I have added myofascial dry needling and cupping to my services.  I offer it in my remedial treatments, if I think that a client is suitable to the therapeutic benefits these two modalities can offer.

What is myofascial release?

Fascia under chicken skin, for example

Fascia under chicken skin, for example

Fascia is a connective tissue that covers all our organs and muscles and groups of muscles. When we stretch we are stretching the facia as well as the muscle. The fascia is connected to everything and so releasing tension in one area can also help ease pain in other areas of the body. There are many myofascial release techniques including massage, stretching, compression, skin rolling, foam rolling, and strain-counterstrain techniques. Cupping works in a similar way to deep tissue massage or skin rolling to release myofascial tension.

Gwyneth Paltrow (Photo by Jim Spellman/WireImage)

Gwyneth Paltrow with cupping marks

What is Cupping?

Cupping is a therapy in which a jar is attached to the skin via suction. It is an ancient practice found in Chinese, Hindu and Egyptian scriptures. Cupping fell out of favour in western regions the early 20th Century with the favour of chemical drugs but recently there has been a resurgence of interest with physical therapists using it for myofascial release. It is very effective for musculoskeletal pain, headaches and migraines, sporting injuries, asthma, chronic cough and gastrointestinal disorders.

Cupping Therapy

Cupping

It is generally safe and the only side effect are the purple ‘bruising’ marks that are left on the skin. Cupping cannot be applied to open wounds, dermatological problems such as acne, or sunburn.

A flame is inserted into the jar to remove the oxygen and allow the cup to suction. The flame and treatment of cupping can look daunting but it is relatively pain free, most clients describe it as a ‘pinching’ feeling. It works fast to reduce muscle and fascia tension.

What is dry needling?

Dry needling is similar to acupuncture, in that they both use fine, solid needles, inserted into certain points in the muscle. From there, the two practices diverge. Acupuncture works on a Chinese philosophy that pressure points along energy channels running throughout the body can be pin-pointed to treat all of the bodies systems.

Doctor uses needles for treatment of the patient

Dry needling

Dry needling is a Western based philosophy, pioneered by Janet Travell, MD, where the needles are inserted into the trigger point or ‘knot’ in the muscle to treat musculoskeletal pain. Although, there is a high degree of similarity between the locations of trigger points and acupuncture pressure points for pain relief. Dry needling is performed throughout much of the western world by myotherapists, and is becoming increasingly popular in Australia by various physical therapists, who are seeing the physical benefits of myofascial release.

Dry needling of a trigger point will elicit an involuntary reflex in the muscle fibers, blood, oxygen and inflammation will be forced into the muscle and the nerve endings in the muscle will be stimulated, all resulting in a reduction in pain and release of tension in the muscle. The same response as with non-invasive trigger point therapy and deep tissue massage. There are a number of different techniques used by various practitioners to date from injecting the muscles to just piercing the skin with the needle like acupuncture.

Many studies have concluded various reasons as to why dry needling and acupuncture reduce pain including; stimulation of the spinal reflex arc; eliciting a local twitch response during the application of any needling technique; change in neuropathic condition and a histamine release that causes local irritation and relaxation of the muscle; mechanically breaking up the nodularity of the tissue; decrease in stiffness of the muscle through an electrical event; bleeding causing release of so called platelet derived growth factors, which aids in the healing of the muscle; normalization of the pH and of several biochemicals and neurotransmitters that are involved in regulation of pain.

Unfortunately however, no scientific study to date has reported the reliability of trigger point diagnosis.

Dry-Needling-PicWhat side effects are there?

Mild muscle soreness or ache is a common side effect after the procedure, bruising is also common. Typically, the soreness lasts between a few hours to a few days. Recovery from dry needling can be aided by the same techniques as deep tissue massage like drinking water, resting, mineral salt baths, gentle stretching, and ice or heat over the effected area.

Complications

Like any medical procedure, there are possible complications. While these complications are uncommon, they do sometimes occur and must be considered prior to giving consent to the procedure.

  • Any time a needle is used there is a risk of infection. However, using new, disposable and sterile needles, along with sterilising the skin, infections are extremely rare.
  • A needle may be placed inadvertently in an artery or vein. If an artery or vein is punctured with the needle, a hematoma (or bruise) will develop. Usually the needles used are too fine to puncture the wall of an artery and bend around to avoid it. If any bleeding from a vein occurs, it is no larger than a pin-prick bleed.
  • If a nerve is touched, it may cause paresthesia (a pins and needles sensation) which is usually brief, but it may continue for a couple of days. It is theorised that this can help the function of the muscle and in some practices encouraged.
  • When a needle is placed close to the chest wall, there is a rare possibility of a pneumothorax (air in the chest cavity). If you experience pain in the chest, pain on exertion, shortness of breath, dry cough or decreased breath sounds during auscultation up to half an hour after treatment, you should seek medical attention.

Contraindications and precautions for dry needling

You should not receive needling if you are suffering from blood disorders such as Hemophilia or VonWillebrands disease. Those with blood borne diseases need to disclose their condition to their therapist. Patients on Warfarin, Plavix may not be able to have needling, all medications should be disclosed to the therapist before treatment. Infants cannot have needling and children need parental consent. Those with cancer should seek advice from their practising physician before needling treatment. Patients with sensitivity or allergy to nickel or chrome may react to materials in the needles. Epileptic patients also need special attention and strong stimulation is forbidden in treatment. Those with heart disease or recent cardiac surgery also cannot have needling.

Should I have cupping or dry needling?

Ultimately your physical therapist will advise you if they think you can benefit from either modality. Either are rarely a treatment in itself and is usually done in conjunction with other manual and physical therapy treatments, such as massage and stretching.

myofascial_releaseThere is no specific, predetermined number of treatments for patients with myofascial pain. Chronic conditions will require more treatments than acute conditions. In addition, the amount of treatments will also depend on concurrent other medical conditions, your compliance with any at home treatment, your age and physical condition. If your therapist does recommend it, then don’t be afraid to try the treatment and make a decision yourself about how you like the results.

Headaches v. Migraines

If a client is experiencing neck & shoulder tension, I usually ask them if they are having headaches and often they tell me they’ve been having migraines. But what you may not realise is that there are a number of different types of headaches, and migraines are not a bad headache, per-say but have a different pathophysiology to headaches altogether.

Migraine
Often mistaken for a tension or sinus headache, a migraine is a neurological condition caused by an overreactive “switch” in the brain stem.

Symptoms include throbbing pain; sensitivity to light, sounds, and smells; nausea and vomiting; and other symptoms. Twenty percent of sufferers have aura—symptoms such as visual disturbances that precede the onset of pain. The pain is moderate to severe, with triggers such as stress, hormonal changes, weather changes, some foods. Treatments include stress relief, lifestyle changes, OTC and Rx medications

Tension headache
This is by far the most common type of headache, affecting as many 90 percent of people at some point in their life. It’s caused by tightness in the muscles of the scalp and the back of the neck. Symptoms include dull pressure or tightness in a band around the head, especially the forehead. Usually no other symptoms. The pain is usually mild to moderate caused by stress, fatigue or activity. There are specific trigger points in the head, neck and shoulders that cause referral pain into the scalp.

IMG_1213.JPG

Over the counter pain relievers like ibuprofen and paracetamol can help. Massage, hydrating properly and taking some time to de-stress—deep breathing, gentle yoga, napping, or meditation—might also help.

Sinus headache
It’s fairly uncommon; most people who think they have one actually have a migraine. “Almost half of people with migraines have runny or stuffy nose or teary eyes with their headaches,” Dr. Tepper explains. Symptoms include pain around the nose and eyes; runny nose, often accompanied by fever. The pain can be mild to severe and is triggered by an acute sinus infection. Treatment includes over the counter pain relievers and sinus meds.

Cluster headache
Rare, it affects 0.1 percent of the people, more commonly men. Because it tends to occur at the same time every day, doctors suspect the hypothalamus—the part of the brain that controls the body clock—is involved. Symptoms are intense, penetrating pain behind one eye that usually starts shortly after you fall asleep. They last an hour or two but come in clusters of one or two headaches a day over several weeks. Excruciating pain, that can be triggered by alcohol, diet. Also more common in smokers.
Because not much is known about the cause there is little treatment. Prevention can include prescription drugs, nerve blocks injected into the back of your head, and melatonin. Triptans and other medications are used to treat an attack once it’s started.

Here’s some points to consider telling your doctor for a diagnosis and effective treatment;
Are my headaches are severe and pounding?
Do I often feel nauseous or sensitive to light and noise during a headache attack?
The headaches come before or during my menstrual cycle.
My parent/sibling has the same kind of headaches.
I have missed work or important events because of my headaches.
Moving around too much or bending over can make the pain worse.
The pain is often on one side of my head.
Pain killers don’t help much (or not at all).
My headache can last from about five hours to several days.